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  • Writer's pictureTheo Hordijk

Understanding Stress

Anyone struggling with the pressure of work or life will recognize the feeling of struggling to label it. But, it doesn’t really matter what you call it: be it a burn out, being overworked or feeling strained. It all comes down to being stressed and the inability to manage that feeling. I've come to realize that understanding these feelings is not just a necessity, but an art in itself. It's a journey that requires several steps from recognizing that you are experiencing stress, all the way to finding a way to balance everything that is going on in your life.

Don’t get me wrong, not all forms of stress are inherently negative. Stress is also a natural physiological response to what we see as threats or challenges around us. Stress can in fact enhance our ability to perform under pressure. However, when stress becomes chronic or unmanageable, it can have serious negative effects on our physical and mental health.

The Many Faces of Stress

We’ve all had our own experiences surrounding stress, and know that it can take many forms. Physically, it can lead to headaches, a disrupted sleep cycle, concentration problems, and even changes in appetite. Speaking for myself, there were times when I noticed that I was eating more out of stress, while there were other times when stress took my appetite away completely. It’s crystal clear to me why the phrase ‘i have a gut feeling’ exists. The first sign of stress for me is when I notice that my gut literally contracts and sends a message through my whole body, and it has become a true warning signal for me. Whatever your reaction to stressful situations might be, it's important to understand that these symptoms are normal and that acknowledging these symptoms is the first step in managing stress.

How to Deal with Stress

In our modern, high-pressure society, stress has become a common, yet sometimes overwhelming, part of life. The key to managing stress effectively lies in four steps.

Recognition: The initial step is to acknowledge the presence of stress. This can be challenging, as we often dismiss or downplay our own symptoms and tend to brush it off quickly. However, it's crucial to listen to our bodies and minds, and recognize when we're feeling overwhelmed. This involves being honest with ourselves about our emotional state and the pressures we're facing.

Acceptance: Once we've recognized that we are experiencing negative effects of stress, the next step lies in acceptance. It's important to understand that what you are experiencing is not a personal failing or sign of weakness. Acceptance allows us to approach our stress without judgment, reducing feelings of guilt or shame that can only make our lives harder.

Action: After acknowledging and accepting our stress, it's time to take proactive steps towards managing it. These actions are highly personal and will differ from person to person. Important to know is that these actions will involve realizing that these changes will have to be made by ourselves, as we cannot fully control or influence our surroundings. To start, these actions can involve lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet, incorporating regular exercise into our routine, and ensuring we get adequate sleep. This is also the step where it is beneficial to seek professional help from a therapist or coach who can provide further strategies and techniques to help you through this phase.

Finding Balance: In this final step it is all about the art of finding a healthy work-life balance. Here you can think of setting boundaries at work, dedicating time for relaxation and hobbies, and spending quality time with friends and family. By creating a balance, we can ensure that our personal life and well-being don't get overshadowed by our professional responsibilities.

As a life coach, I get the opportunity to guide and support people on their journey towards stress management and personal well-being. Empowering people to embrace these steps, and learn the skills and resilience needed to face stress head-on, will lead to a more balanced and fulfilling life. Let me close out with the words that are front and center on my homepage as they capture this feeling of working together with a coach perfectly: Share your worries, and we'll tackle them together.

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